top of page

Genocide: convicts seek reintegration, forgiveness after decades in jail

Some of the inmates at Nyarugenge Prison. More than 22,000 genocide convicts of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi who are set to be reintegrated into society after serving their sentences . [Photo by Craish Bahizi]

Joseph Ndagijimana, a resident of Busengo sector in Gakenke district, was sentenced to 29 years in jail at Musanze correctional facility for his involvement in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

Currently undergoing a reintegration process, Ndagijimana has expressed remorse for his actions and is seeking forgiveness before being reintegrated into the community.

Reintegration is the process of successfully transitioning offenders back into society after completing their sentences, where they are expected to remain law-abiding and exhibit positive attitudes and behaviors.

Ndagijimana is among more than 22,000 genocide convicts of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi who are set to be reintegrated into society after serving their sentences, according to the Ministry of National Unity and Civic Engagement (MINUBUMWE).

He is currently undergoing rehabilitation and preparation for his eventual reintegration. The ministry stated that those convicted for 20 to 30 years will soon be released.

"In 1994, when Tutsi sought refuge in the former Busengo prefecture, despite being a civilian, I joined a military attack from the Kivuruga area to kill Tutsi," Ndagijimana confessed.

Expressing remorse, the genocide convict acknowledges killing a Tutsi who sought refuge in his home, even though the victim was related to his older brother's wife.

"I also killed her child, despite promising to protect the child. I take full responsibility for all the crimes I committed, and I sincerely ask for forgiveness. I vow to never commit such atrocities again," he said.

Thomas Hategekimana, from Kivurugu sector in Gakenke district, was sentenced to 30 years in jail for his participation in the genocide against the Tutsi.

After spending 28 years behind bars, he could be released within the next two years.

"I committed unforgivable atrocities during the genocide. However, the government has shown mercy towards us. I am filled with remorse and shame, and I humbly request forgiveness," he stated.

Hategekimana recounts that on April 25 and 26, 1994, he was stationed at a roadblock in Kivuruga sector, where he arrested and killed Tutsi individuals.

"I encountered a woman with two children and murdered them," he recounted.

The following day, he witnessed another woman being assaulted by Interahamwe militia and joined the attack, resulting in her death.

"A third woman arrived at the roadblock with four children. My older brother and I partnered to kill them. We had become heartless and monstrously evil," he confessed.

Initially, Hategekimana was sentenced to life imprisonment.

However, he stated, "The government reduced the sentence through the Gacaca courts. The weight of the genocide crime has haunted me, and my heart has never known peace, nor have I slept soundly."

Seeking Reconciliation with Genocide Victims

"I humbly request assistance in arranging meetings with the relatives of those I killed during the genocide. They are my neighbors, and I am concerned about how I will reintegrate into the community in two years when my sentence is completed," he added.

The genocide convicts are currently undergoing rehabilitation and preparation for reintegration into the community through the "Mvura Nkuvure" program, which loosely translates to "healing each other."

"This healing process has come at the right time because the crimes we committed have left deep scars in our hearts. The next step I desire is to meet with the genocide victims," said Hategekimana.

John Bosco Kabanda, the Ethics and Doctrine Division Manager at Rwanda Correctional Service (RCS), said that this initiative helps prepare genocide convicts for successful reintegration into society upon their release.

"The journey toward reintegration must be well-prepared, and we are implementing it across various correctional facilities," he said.

Margaret Mahoro, Senior Program Manager at Interpeace—an organization leading the initiative—explained that it was initially piloted in Bugesera district across 15 sectors and is now being implemented in other districts, such as Musanze.

"It facilitates communication between genocide convicts and victims, allowing them to discuss the effects of the genocide and trauma, ultimately paving the way for reconciliation and forgiveness," she said.

Mahoro says that in addition to the Mvura Nkuvure program, they are collaborating with the Ministry of National Unity and Civic Engagement to develop a civic education curriculum, aiming to prepare over 22,000 ex-convicts before their reintegration into society.

"The genocide convicts will also be connected with their families and communities before their release and reintegration. They need to learn about the significant transformations that have taken place in the country to be fully prepared to rejoin the community," she explained.


(c) 2023, The New Times

Featured Review
Tag Cloud
bottom of page